On Election Night 2017, the Pennsylvania Democratic Party experienced historic success in a critical part of the Southeastern section of the state. No, not Delaware County, of which so much has already been written, but Bucks County.
Bucks held five unique countywide contests last November – County Controller, District Attorney, Prothonotary, Recorder of Deeds and Sheriff – with four of them going to the Dems.
In keeping with the county’s reputation as a closely contested bellwether, the best performance by a Democrat was the 51.64 percent Robin Robinson secured in the Recorder of Deeds race.
Prothonotary candidate Judi Reiss came next with 50.94 percent, with Sheriff Milt Warrell and County Controller Neale Dougherty just behind at 50.57 percent and 50.41 percent, respectively.
The one victorious Republican nominee was Matt Weintraub, who carried the District Attorney contest with 54.42 percent.
The Democratic Party’s base is in the lower half of the county in cities like Bristol, Fairless Hills, Levittown, Morrisville and Newtown. Central Bucks cities like Doylestown and New Hope provide additional votes while their surrounding suburbs make the difference as Republicans ran up the score everywhere else.
What does stand out, however, are the shifts that have taken place in just the past decade. As recently as 2008, for example, Barack Obama was winning areas in Upper Bucks like Quakertown and Perkasie during the presidential election.
In 2012, President Obama was able to narrowly hold on in Bucks by running up the margins in the bottom portion of the county.
Four years later, Hillary Clinton also barely won Bucks – but with a different coalition. Towns bordering Northeast Philadelphia such as Bensalem and Croydon turned red while wealthier areas like Lower Makefield went blue. This may be an example of the educational divide analysts have witnessed develop since the rise of Donald Trump.
The inroads made by Democrats is an unwelcome development for incumbent Republican Congressman Brian Fitzpatrick. The freshman legislator has deep familal roots in the 8th Congressional District (his brother held the seat from 2005 to 2007 and again from 2011 to 2017), yet midterm elections are especially tough for a sitting President’s party. At the moment, prognosticators see a major blue wave forming.
Then there’s the political earthquake set off by the state Supreme Court’s ruling that the commonwealth’s congressional districts were gerrymandered and would have to be redrawn before this year’s primary elections.
Finally, there are the repercussions for state legislative races. Republican State Senators Chuck McIlhinney and Stewart Greenleaf announced their retirement. McIlhinney’s district contains Lower Makefield; State Rep. Steve Santarsiero, who’s from that area and got some experience running for Congress in 2016, is seeking the seat. Meanwhile, Greenleaf’s district contains the suburbs of Doylestown as well as the heavily Hispanic town of Warminster. On top of that, if the Democrats continue to perform well in New Hope and keep down the margins in rural areas they may be able to take advantage of the seat left open by Scott Petri.